Question: Being present sounds easy, but how do I apply this at work in a busy corporate environment where those around me — my boss, my peers, and senior management — are focused on anything and everything other than being present. My days are filled with meetings, emails, and phone calls! How can I be present?
Robert: I understand and empathize with the intensity of your busy corporate environment. Many of my clients over the years have worked in the same kind of environment, and much of my work has focused on helping them find their way to a state of clarity and presence in the midst of confusion and chaos.
Being Present means to be aware of our thoughtstream — of our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions — without being defined or determined by it. Being Present means that we perceive and act from the silent awareness that is outside of the thoughtstream, surrounding it like an oasis of clarity and stillness. Being Present is, in a way, our posture, our position, our point of view. It is not dependent on what is happening around us; it is not dependent on what other people are doing. It is a choice we make about how we are going to be.
In every storm, there is the eye, the center of stillness. This is what we must find within our self, regardless of the storm’s intensity. This center of stillness is what allows us to see what is really happening, while it is happening. Our capacity to Be Present is always within reach, and it is not dependent on anything other than our choice to focus our awareness and attention: either we live from within the thoughtstream or from silent awareness. It is always our choice. In terms of leadership effectiveness, silent awareness is almost always the wiser choice.
From the eye of the storm, in the silent awareness of Being Present, our overall capacity to see, hear, feel, and act is elevated and refined. Our subtle sense of intuition is activated. We are able to be creatively responsive to circumstances, rather than being unconsciously reactive. Our very presence becomes a stabilizing force, and we can begin to influence the incoherence and chaos around us. We can settle things down with our presence; invite others into a similar space of awareness.
How do we do it? First, we must intend to do it, to Be Present, knowing it is always our choice to do so. Then, we can become friends with our breath, with the rhythm of our own breathing. Our breath is always “now”; being aware of our breathing helps us to become present and gives us a vantage point from where we can notice our thoughtstream. We can take regular breaks from our work, from the emails and meetings, and phone calls — walk outside, if we can, or in some way create a break in the unrelenting intensity of the external demands on our time and attention. We always want to be in control of our attention, our focus, our energy. If we surrender our choice and control of our attention to the chaos around us, we will be swept away.
Another “strategy” is to be aware of what we are saying, and how we are saying it, while we are saying it! In the fast-paced corporate environment, we so often fall into unconscious, reactive patterns of speaking. How many times do you find yourself saying to yourself, after a meeting or phone call or face-to-face encounter, “Why did I say that?” Or, “Why didn’t I say that?” Either way, it’s a sign that we were not present. By training our self to speak and communicate mindfully, we advance the cause of Being Present.
Stay in the eye of the storm. You’ll be safe there.